Johnston Hobbs 224 Performance Sponsor
Catching Biomechanics and Pop Times
INCREASED EXIT VELOCITY BY GETTING DIRECTIONAL FOR CATCHERS
Johnston Hobbs; CEO, 224 Performance, Inc., and NHSBCA Member
Over the past couple of seasons, I have heard catchers, parents and other coaches repeatedly speak about a metric in performance evaluation during prospect camps and showcases, “Exit Velocity for Catchers.” Frankly, we do not think exit velocity should be the only measure of a catchers ability to play the game at a high level. The need to control the running game is paramount, at all levels. As a high school coach, not all our catchers are blessed with cannon arms. Often we must convert athletes to catchers because of need. How do we get our catcher to produce at a high level, if not gifted with a plus arm? Let us look at a comparison if our catchers could run the ball to second base in 1.8 seconds, getting directional from the catcher would be a non-issue. While this feat is highly unlikely and so far humanly impossible, it does emphasize how quick feet and fast exchanges can make a world of difference and compensate for a less than powerful arm.
Every player on the field gets directional in order to maximize their performance, especially the lower body, working from the ground up reduces stresses off the arm. For example, outfielders create long levers by crow-hopping to increase velocity. Pitchers have to be directional in order to be accurate and gain downhill momentum. Infielders secure the ball while moving to their target to throw to the appropriate base. Very few coaches emphasize direction movement with catchers. We would argue that many catching instructors teach to pop up and tp exchange perpendicular (sideways) to second base. As coaches, it is our inherent nature to question technique and find ways to improve our teams. In our case, would we not question “does an athlete walk sideways to class?” Probably, so why teach our catchers this movement. Conceptionally I asked myself why would a catcher not use the most efficient route and get their feet and knees in the direction they want to perform. Other position groups use this technique, why not catchers? Using the big muscles of the hamstring, quadriceps and gluteal group help in all aspects of the game….hitting, throwing, running. Why not emphasize using these big muscle groups behind the plate throwing to a target. We teach our catchers to exchange aggressively (whole new article and videos) and get the front foot, knee, and shoulder towards their target……” directed” to the target. (Take a peek below at our video drills). If your catcher can cover approximately 5.5-6 feet in .5 seconds in their exchange and move forward to the directed target, the ball and athlete will accelerate approximately 3 MPH. We instruct our catchers to get into the Landing Zone (LZ) directed to their target. Flight time for a baseball to cover the distance from second to home plate in 1.0 seconds is approximately 83 MPH. Not many pro athletes throw that hard! See below.
Note, on pop times, the catcher with the highest average velocity does NOT have the best average pop time. This data seems to support my argument that quick feet and getting directional, is very important!
In the video below, 224 Performance athlete, Will Thistle, demonstrates how we instruct getting to the throwing position quickly and aggressively while seeming very relaxed. In this video, the average exchange times are anywhere from .48-.55 seconds. This allows Will to throw 70 MPH and have consistent pop times of 1.9. Every athlete has their strengths. For those who cannot adjust as quickly, we have those athletes work, practice and concentrate on getting the toe, knee, and shoulder pointed to their target. After the body mechanics are fluid, we then work on throwing. Coaching tip: have catcher concentrate on slamming that back hip to get more torque (rotation) to help their arms while maintaining body control. We always tell our players that there is a big difference in your best throw and your hardest throw. We are interested in their best throw. If a catcher can get directional and feet in place in .44 seconds, exit velocity is approximately 65 MPH this will yield a consistent pop time of 2.0 seconds.
We understand it may be an arduous task to find time to work with catchers. However, we feel strongly that if you invest time in controlling the running game this puts much less pressure on the pitcher and defense during a game and season.
If you have any inquiries, please feel free to email me at Johnston Hobbs